Selective elimination of cerebellar output in the genetically dystonic rat
The genetically dystonic (dt) rat, an autosomal recessive mutant, exhibits a progressive motor syndrome that resembles the generalized idiopathic dystonia seen in humans. Even with supportive measures, dt rats die before reaching maturity. A total cerebellectomy that includes the dorsal portions of the lateral vestibular nuclei (dLV) eliminates the dystonic motor syndrome of the dt rats, greatly improves motor function, and prevents early death. The selective elimination of cerebellar nuclei was used to determine the cerebellar components critical to the mutant's motor syndrome. Bilateral electrolytic and/or excitatory amino acid lesions of the medial cerebellar nucleus, nucleus interpositus, lateral cerebellar nucleus and dLV were created in separate groups of 15-day-old dt rats. Rats were observed for the presence of abnormal motor signs (falls, twists, clasps, pivots) and tested on several measures of motor performance (activity, climbing, righting, homing, hanging) before surgery and again on Postnatal Day 20. All nuclear lesions produced significant improvements in motor function and decreases in the frequency of abnormal motor signs. Electrolytic lesions of the dLV were associated with the greatest improvements.